get a couple cups of coffee into me and weird things just start to happen

On the second day, we got up very early (particularly considering all the activity of the day before). I reorganized my bags, which I had not unpacked but which could be in a more useful layout than airline carry-on regulations would allow. I was dosed with anti-nausea and allergy-control medications (to control the ear problems) and, after an uneasy ride in the elevator of doom, back in the lobby long before our appointment with our hosts. I had a caffè mocha and a slice of lemon cake at the hotel's cafe, The Lobby Court. (If I drink coffee at all, it's because I want a lot of caffeine in a short period of time, I don't want Coke, and I don't trust the tea options. Mocha makes it tolerable and adds a little more caffeine with the chocolate.)

I also picked up a vastly over-priced package of Band-aids in the gift shop at the hotel, in an attempt to stave off the blister damage on the bottom of my feet. I was hoping for actual blister pads, but they were maybe the one health & beauty product that was not offered (in an extra-small and extra-expensive package) in that store. Once bound up, we were back on our way.

Our hosts picked us up and, once again distributed among the cars, we headed off toward Murrieta. The groom and his parents had a lunch date with the bride and the bride's parents. It was a sort of complicated negotiation, but it was finally settled that we would all go to the bride's parents' house, meet them, and then disperse to the restaurant--after the groom dropped me (and all of our luggage) at the house in Temecula that we had rented for the next several days. The groom's cousin and uncle were already there; the groom's cousin was tasked with creating the wedding cakes and was already hard at work.

The rest of that day is a blur. I checked out the house, which looked very nice on the surface and was indeed mostly comfortable and accommodating the entire time that we were there, but had its limits (which I shall explain later). I read a book--the first of five that I would read over the course of six days. I took some photographs of the area around the house, which are interspersed here. And I took one hell of a nap, probably four hours, which set off to an even greater extent my bizarro sleeping schedule for the rest of the week.

When my friends (the groom's parents, by the way--have I mentioned that?) returned from their lunch, we all ventured into town. I now realize that the photographs that I neglected to take, which would have encapsulated the week to its greatest extent, would have been of the driveway of the house, both from the top and from the bottom. This sucker had a ridiculously, horrifically steep grade. That, combined with the sharp left turn at the top, made it nerve-wracking for anyone not very comfortable with that sort of driving, and nearly impossible at night.

Once off the driveway from Hell, we headed into town. We needed to pick up some basic supplies for the week and get some dinner. We really had no firm plans for it, though, preferring to keep our options open. We ended up in a strip-mall that included a bunch of stuff that didn't apply (a Gold's Gym, a Realtor, etc.) along with a pizza place, a CVS pharmacy, and a grocery store. We decided to divide and conquer. We ordered a pizza to go, while I went into the CVS and picked up some blister pads, along with some things that we'd wanted to bring along but couldn't legally pack into our luggage. (No, not explosives, just aerosols.) Then we reunited and went to the grocery store...which ended up being a sort of Whole Foods knockoff, excessively granola and expensive but without the delicious name brands that we really wanted. We got some basics (English muffins and fruit) and some treats (cheese puffs and some ridiculous cookies that probably saved us from starvation, or at least deprivation, later in the week), but couldn't buy the Coke that we really, really wanted. By that time the pizza was done, so we just took what we had and left. Sigh!

Back at the house, we fell upon that pizza like a pack of ravening wolves. We had our non-Coke cola, only to discover after half a bottle each that it was not caffeinated, organic, and "infused with heaven." What is the point?!! Ugh. After dinner, the rest of the gang settled in for a chat around the fire pit in the back yard, but I went to sleep very early. I was still tired from the day before, a little off my feed, and needing to recharge for the big day ahead: the wedding rehearsal! If I'd known what would face me the following day, I would have showered that night, but I simply fell into bed and left it to the morning. I was just too weary to worry about it.

[the title quotation is by Gary Larson, and reads in its entirety: "I don't know where my ideas come from. I will admit, however, that one key ingredient is caffeine. I get a couple cups of coffee into me and weird things just start to happen."]

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